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Will Ferrell explains why he was ‘so embarrassed’ by his real name growing up

Will Ferrell has recalled feeling “so embarrassed” by his legal name during his childhood.

The actor, 56, appeared on former co-star Christina Applegate’s MeSsy podcast on July 9 in honor of the 20th anniversary of their classic comedy film, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. While speaking with podcast co-hosts Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, the Saturday Night Live alum revealed that he felt embarrassed when he was addressed by his real name, John, growing up.

“This is a minor thing in terms of – it’s not really even trauma – but I remember feeling so embarrassed because my real name is John, John William Ferrell. So, first day of school, I’d be John,” the Elf star explained. “The teacher would be like, ‘John Ferrell?’ and it was so embarrassing to me to have to say, ‘Here, but I go by Will, I don’t go by John.’”

Ferrell recalled that it took “a week” for teachers to finally learn he prefers to go by the name Will, which he described as an “excruciating” process. “The beginning of the school year was always like, ‘Oh my gosh, I hate this. I have to remind the teacher that I’m not John.’”

When asked why he felt so embarrassed by his legal name, the Step Brothers actor said: “It wasn’t my choice.”

“My parents named [me] John but they called me Will. I grew up as Will, but on a rule sheet, my legal name is John Ferrell,” he added. “I don’t know why that was so embarrassing to me to have to explain, ‘I’m actually Will.’

“And then I think maybe for those reasons, other kids, new kids, first day of school, like, ‘Why don’t you go by John?’ ‘It’s a long story,’” Ferrell recalled.

He then quipped about the candid confession: “People are probably going to be listening to this going, ‘That is the lamest thing ever.’”

Elsewhere during the podcast, the father of three described his personality as a child growing up in Irvine, California, located in Orange County.

“Ten-year-old Will, fourth grade Will, would have been like, really into sports, very conscientious student, but at an early age, trying to make my friends laugh,” Ferrell said. “I was like a conscientious class clown. I would goof around to a point if the teacher said, ‘Please stop,’ I’m like, ‘You got it!’”

Ferrell went on to join the cast of SNL in 1995 and departed in 2002 after seven years. In addition to starring in legendary sketches such as “More Cowbell,” Ferrell has also appeared in several cult classic comedy movies – including A Night at the Roxbury, Zoolander, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

In 2000, Ferrell married fellow actor Viveca Paulin, whom he first met in 1995 at an acting class. They share three sons: Magnus, born in 2004, Mattias, born in 2006, and Axel, born in 2010.

Last month, his son Magnus revealed that the comedian pranked him before his prom by dressing up “as a medieval lord” to embarrass him. In the photo posted to TikTok, Ferrell is standing next to Magnus, proudly dressed in a slouchy black top hat, maroon robe with gold stitching, and a wide-brimmed white collar.

Ferrell pulled another amusing stunt last October when he DJed his eldest son’s fraternity tailgate party at the University of Southern California. The actor had returned to his alma mater – where Magnus is also a student – for a family weekend, where he was spotted at the DJ booth during a Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity party wearing black headphones, a backwards hat, sunglasses, and a black zipped-up USC jacket.

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